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Memphis plans for in-person graduation ceremonies in July

Booker T. Washington High School seniors toss their graduation caps into the air last spring at the conclusion of their graduation ceremony at the Orpheum Theatre.

Shelby County Schools is planning in-person graduation ceremonies for July.

Brad Vest/The Commercial Appeal

Shelby County Schools is planning in-person graduation ceremonies for July along with a “drive-thru senior salute” where students can pick up their diplomas and get their photo taken. 

Superintendent Joris Ray announced the plan for the district’s 6,000 seniors Tuesday during the school board’s April meeting. 

“Our seniors have earned this moment, and we feel it is our responsibility to provide them with several opportunities to celebrate their hard work,” he said in a statement released during the meeting. 

The long-awaited announcement comes about a week after the state released graduation ceremony guidelines. The district has been gathering input from high school seniors for about a month. School systems nationwide have grappled with how to honor their graduating students while still adhering to public health guidelines to stem the spread of the coronavirus. 

Below is the tentative plan for senior activities, which are subject to change based on public health guidelines in effect at the time: 

  • May: The district plans to launch a website the week of May 18 that includes commemorative programs for families to download as keepsakes that list all graduates. The website will also provide updates about graduation activities. 
  • June: Students and their families can visit their high school campus the week of June 8 to pick up diplomas and awards in a “drive-thru senior salute.” Students can participate in themed photo opportunities that adhere to social distancing guidelines. 
  • July: In-person graduation ceremonies are tentatively scheduled for July 13-26. Since public health guidelines may still prohibit large gatherings then, virtual ceremonies will be a backup option. Details on when and where the ceremonies will be held will be announced closer to the date. 

Graduation ceremony plans for the district’s 57 charter schools and the state-run Achievement School District are separate. Ray said parents can expect more information soon about refunds for senior fees. 

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